Luka Samanic’s summer plan? Copy Lauri Markkanen.

As the Croatian forward tries to stick with the Utah Jazz, he figured he could do worse than follow his Finnish teammate around for a week, hoping to emulate the All-Star’s more guard-oriented skills.

When the Utah Jazz brought in Luka Samanic at the end of the 2022-23 season, it was a low-stakes, high-upside gamble:

Let’s get a look at a former first-round pick who was jettisoned very, very early into his NBA career, and see if a tall, lengthy shooter can make it work the second time around.

While the production in the nine games he played here wasn’t transcendent by any means (9.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 45.6 FG%, 25.8 3P%), the numbers were encouraging enough anyway to bring him back and at least give him another shot through the summer.

Given that the first of three guaranteed-money triggers in his contract doesn’t take place until July 18 (when $400K will become due if he’s still on the roster), the Croatian has a lot riding on his summer league performances.

So … how’s it looking, then?

Things got off to a decidedly meh start in the team’s Salt Lake City Summer League opener vs. Oklahoma City on Monday, as he put up 13 points and six rebounds, but shot 5 for 16 overall, 1 of 6 from deep, and appeared to be absolutely gassed by game’s end, despite playing just 23 minutes and 9 seconds.

The follow-up Wednesday vs. the Sixers was better, as he very nearly matched that production in the first quarter alone (13 points and five rebounds), and on much better shooting splits, as he went 5 of 7 from the field and 3 of 4 from deep.

He slowed thereafter, but finished with 19 points (on 7-for-11 from the field, 3 of 5 from deep), plus nine rebounds, two assists, and a steal, as the Jazz lost to Philadelphia, 104-94 at the Delta Center.

“I thought tonight Luka played really well,” said Jazz summer league coach Evan Bradds. “[Especially after] he struggled in the first game.”

Samanic has mostly been in Utah since last season ended, working out at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus training facility, playing 5-on-5 games with whatever teammates have also been around, and throwing himself into studying the Jazz’s schemes and actions, and how he fits into them.

Asked if he was looking forward to participating in summer league play, he didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, for sure. You get close with some rookies and some other guys,” Samanic said. “I came here in April, so the more [time] I spend with guys before the season, it helps me and them get to know each other better.”

Beyond added familiarity, the 23-year-old is also looking to continue growing his game.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Luka Samanic (19) stretches out for a pass against the 76ers during an NBA Summer League basketball game Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

Tightening up his shooting mechanics has been an area of focus, of course, but his shot profile also has gotten some work. His handles also have received a bit of extra attention.

“Maybe trying to play a little more outside as a guard so I can mix it up,” said the 6-foot-10 forward.

It’s not a bad plan, actually.

The Jazz roster has actually provided him with a couple of templates to try and emulate.

Lauri [Markkanen] was here for a week, so whatever he was doing, I was just trying to copy, honestly,” Samanic said. “Not just to be like Lauri, like Kelly [Olynyk, too], just the way he plays. He can handle the ball, he’s so big, but he can do the guard things. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

He added Wednesday night that the process includes being able to “switch on whoever whenever.”

Bradds noted you can already see the impact of the Markkanen tutorial.

“That week, they worked a lot together, and it was good to see that,” he said. “I think he has all the talent in the world, and it’s just helping him add a couple of things. I thought the handoff stuff was good for him, putting it down on the floor. I would say tonight was probably the most physical on offense that I’ve seen.”

If that continues, it would go a long way toward securing his spot on the roster for yet another regular-season roster.

For now, he’ll be eyeing that July 18 deadline. Then Oct. 23 (when $600,000 is guaranteed), and Jan. 10, 2024 (when the full $2.07 million of his deal is guaranteed).

In the meantime, though, he’s simply enjoying the process of getting there.

“Lately it doesn’t matter that [a contract] isn’t three or four years, because you get to come here every day and work, and if you really love the game of basketball …” he said, trailing off. “I mean, sure, everybody wants to get paid, but I’d be doing this if I was at home with no guaranteed deal. So it’s the same to me.”